Many of you were probably surprised when you saw headlines about Hugo Barra leaving Google for Xiaomi, a consumer electronics company based in Beijing. Heck, some of you probably never even heard of that name before that piece of news, or before this article. Well, it looks like the Chinese company is really intent on carving out its own corner of the smartphone marketplace
At the moment, the company’s products are only offered in three markets: there’s China, of course, along with nearby Taiwan and Hong Kong. However, the company might as well have screamed “we want to conquer the world” by prying away Android’s VP for product management.
Getting Barra is a Big Coup
Xiaomi has lofty goals. For one, it aims to be big enough to take on tech giant Apple, and its approach to the business is heavily influenced by this target. One way the company pushes forward is by relying on a handpicked crack team of industry vets from top companies, including Microsoft. Now, that pantheon also includes Google thanks to the entry of Mr. Barra, who just recently was personally plugging the new Nexus 7.
Barra brings big-company insight into Xiaomi, and his experience being with one of the biggest tech companies in the world should definitely help Xiaomi transition from domestic leader—it’s already being billed as ‘China’s Apple’—to global powerhouse. Of course, a lot needs to happen between now and then, and acquiring a top executive is by no means a guarantee of success. Still, Xiaomi is making big strides, and they all seem to be pointing to the right direction.
Did you know that Xiaomi is only three years into its existence? That’s right—founder and CEO Lei Jun along with another former Google exec, co-founder chief Lin Bin—started the company back in April of 2010. It’s certainly come a long way since then, now with significant marketshare in the mainland and covering a diverse range of products in the consumer electronics field.
What’s driving the company at this point is its devices, powered by the customizable MIUI software that’s practically a heavily modified Android OS. The company is keen on expanding its product line and developing its well-received software, and if it can stand toe to toe with Apple in China, just imagine what Xiaomi is capable of once it successfully scales up its operations to cover the global marketplace.
Can it Sustain Present Momentum?
At the moment, the company’s valuation stands at a whopping $10 billion and is looking at a 20-million target for mobile device unit sales this year. When you think about how that just covers the markets we’ve discussed above, it’s just astounding. We’ll see if the company can maintain this momentum by the time Apple launches its new iPhone product line, which—and this is really great timing on Apple’s part—is set to feature a low-end, cheap iPhone that’s made of plastic, a model designed to dip into the fairly lucrative midrange market.
The next step for Xiaomi is entering international markets, primarily the US. The question is if it can really penetrate into that Apple-loving and Samsung-dominated market. Regardless, this is a huge opportunity for Xiaomi, and the scenarios involved are all oozing with potential.
Maybe we’re reading too much into one hiring—some people have even pointed to some alleged personal issues that involve Barra and Sergey Brin—but you can’t really blame tech insiders and enthusiasts from fussing about this development because it seems like Xiaomi is intent on taking the global market by storm sooner rather than later. In terms of sports, this acquisition puts the company in “win-now” mode—and, at least on paper, it looks like Xiaomi has the tools to pull it off. That should get the attention of other consumer electronics manufacturers.